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Oct 1, 2007
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Hunting Leopard Shot Placement

Post your questions, comments or pictures relating to hunting shot placement.

Hunting Leopard

Hunting Leopard
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I wish you could put up some pictures of a baited leopard on a tree. That would be so realistic. Thanks for these great pictures. They add so much realism to my dreams of hunting Africa!!
There are two things to keep in mind when you hunt leopard. The first is that the vitals are further back than those of antelope.This is true for all cats.
The second is that the shoulder blades of leopards push up higher than the spine when they go down to drink or eat. If its possible don't take the shot when they are in that position. The chances are very good that your well placed shot will pass over the spine and you will have a wounded leopard on your hands.
Here are some pictures of Leopard on bait in a tree... For a lot more pictures of
Leopard on bait as well as other species on trail cam, click here to go to the Photos & Videos section of the site.





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A few more pictures that you put you right into the action of Leopard hunting...




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Leopard Hunting is a facinating subject and it is not that easy to give a definitive answer on exactly where to shoot. Most authorities observe that the heart/lung area lies further back than for most game and a broadside shot should be sighted well beind the shoulder and on the mid-line of the body. Sadly, Leopards rarely stand obligingly in a broadside position.

When I shot a Leopard this year in Zimbabwe, I was intending to follow the common guidance of picking a rosette well behind the leg upon which to focus and aim. However, my PH (the excellent Gordon Duncan) felt this was the wrong approach and explained the "stretchiness" of a Leopard, whereby their muscle structure allows a considerable latitude of movement of the outer body over the inner organs. For example, it is quite common to see a Leopard standing broadside on a branch although with the front legs stretched well forward to hold onto the bait: this has the effect of "moving" the heart/lung area well forward.

When the Leopard is in this position, the advice I received was to "shoot through" the body, focussing and aiming for the centre of the opposite leg.
I did this - the Leopard was dead 10 metres from the tree. An examination showed that the entry wound was much further back than I otherwise would have aimed had I chosen the rosette approach.

From what I understand, there more PH and hunter woundings by Leopard than by any other Dangerous Game, which must in itself mean that an awful lot of people are getting the shot placement wrong.
Shot placement

I think most folks argueably tend to be overgunned with a big bore on Leopard and use bullets that are designed for heavy game that don't open up on their small bodies. One also needs to be careful with light fast calibers as you do not want to tear the cape too badly..The Leopard is a very light small boned animal and about any deer rifle is an excellent choice with prope bullets IMO..

A 30-06, 7x57, or 270 is about ideal and the use of a Nosler partition seems to be the right combination for me, The light for caliber bullets in the partition seem to blow the front end off inside the cat and the base makes a nickle size exit hole...IMO this is the best option.
Thank you for the great insight on this topic Gloucester, I love that explanation about the strechiness, I could really picture the movement in my mind, very helpful. I also appreciated the pictures of the leopards on bait as it gives a better indication of the positions and movement that may be encountered. I guess I'm very visual, but the pictures really add a lot to every post.
Great advice here on the leopard shot - just remember to VISUALIZE the 'boiler room' before your shot and note that the forelimbs are nothing to shoot-at, just ostacles you need to get past in order to reach the heart/lungs. Nice photos shown on here. Cheers,
Leopard Hunting

Leopard Hunting



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Leopard on bait


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Great thread and awesome pictures. I guess these Leopards in Nambia are just getting bigger and fatter as this stupid moratorium drags on. Some great Leopards should come out of Namibia after they lift this ban.
The pictures are awesome. I will be hunting Leopard in September and I am still not sure of the shot placement. From the photos it seems obvious enough to shoot about a hands width behind the legs in a standing upright position. If there is any angle, shoot to penetrate through the off shoulder. But on the various TV shows like Bodington Tracks Across Africa the shots always seem to be directly behind or through the shoulders in the middle of the body. I assume because the spine drops so low, that mid-shoulder shot is the shoulder/spine shot.

With with the photos above in mind, could one of you with a lot of leopard experience go through the aiming point scenarios based on the orientation of the cats on the bait?
Here is a simple way of looking at it... work on the front half of the body and pay attention to the angle involved. As Ray expressed, use a mid-range calibre so as to cause more damage within the animal. If an angle suggests that your bullet entry should be anywhere in the rear half of the body - DO NOT take the shot! Good luck and stay calm.
Very good pictures !!! For me, leopard is quite an easy shot; close ( 25/30 meters ), very good rest for the rifle and your elbow...the most difficult is to control your emotion when it is time to squeeze the trigger. Take your time, be calm, wait for a good broadside position and try to get the middle of the shoulder. Don't fired because he is here, it 's too dangerous for your PH and trackers.. Keep cool and enjoy...
Great pics and info guys!!

Wounded Leopard Attack
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Billy, Thanks for posting this footage of a wounded Leopard charge.

Shotguns can be very effective during the search of a wounded Leopard. Practicing rifle and shotgun shooting at moving targets helps to hone all around hunting skills and it's a lot of fun too!
Jerome thanks for helping with the video i dont think i did it correctly i suck on this box most of the time.LOL The reason i wanted to post this is if you pause the video when the leopard is stretched out on the bait it looks to me like it would be very deceiving on where the vitals lay. I have never hunted leopard or any other dangerous game that's just how it looks to me. Very scary situation the PH here was very lucky i would say that was one mad cat! It was only on him for a couple of seconds and did a tremendous amount of damage.And this animal was wounded amazing! :huntingrifle:

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Another good example of the speed of a cat!!! Numerous shots were fired, but none telling until the last one which got the cat off the PH! This is a normally easy-to-kill animal by the way, but goes to show how they transform into adrenalin pumped armor tanks when wounded. The first shot at the bait must have been too low from what i can tell of the cats behaviour. He almost 'came' down the tree rather than jump off it or fall off it and he ran towards the blind, which should have suggested to the hunters that the following morning was going to be nerve-wrecking!

Very well noted Billy, the cat had just one short burst of contact with the PH but still managed to cause a lot of damage! Just that one split second contact allowed for two canine jabs on the PH. The speed is just amazing. The PH did very well to keep the cat of him though and this allowed for the killing shot to be let out. Scary moments that nobody wants in the bush, but always good to live through and learn from. Am soon ordering a 10 gauge shotgun specifically for leopard follow-ups as i am no longer very confident with my 12-gauge after a couple of incidents. Ended well, but could well have been 'not enough gun' on the occassion after seeing the pellet penetration.

These pussy cats are not to be messed around with. That first shot is what counts!
Anytime Billy (or anyone else in need)! Click here to find out how to post YouTube videos in the forum.

Ryan, even though a viable option, you do not necessarily have to go to a 10 gauge shotgun... When it comes to shotguns, not all 12 gauge shotguns will be adequate for this type of situation... A shotgun with a barrel length of 30 inches (76.2 centimeters), with full or improved modified chokes and with good 3 inch buckshot shells or Number 2 shells will be very effective at close range... As with a big bore double rifle you have the opportunity at a second consecutive action shot using a shotgun which is essential in those split second moments as you do not have time to chamber a second round if need be. Also knowing to refrain from pulling the trigger too early is imperative, not for the faint of heart but crucial to using properly a shotgun for this type of situation.

No matter what, the PH should also have the opportunity to grab his rifle within arms reach from his tracker if needed. I think that in those moments it is also very important that the hunting party stays close to each other at all times, knowing exactly each other's position and retaining that position while tracking. Knowing exactly where everybody is at is crucial for a successful and incident free wounded Leopard pursuit. Of course you're right Ryan "these pussy cats are not to be messed around with. That first shot is what counts!"

Here is an example of how effective a shotgun can be, one day on the way back from a bird shoot I happened to encounter a seriously injured and suffering Gemsbok and all I had was my shotgun... I took him out of his misery with a shot to the head while it was standing at 3 yards with a 12 gauge shotgun with an inadequate bird load Number 7.5 shells (european size) as I did not have anything else, and the entry/exit wound was phenomenal...

Looking at the first shot on this Leopard, it seems that it took the bullet right behind the front leg but way too low as the bullet entered into the chest muscle not getting at any vital organs (see picture below)...


You can clearly see the definition of the chest muscle on the picture below, the second pictures outlining the area of the chest to show you what I am talking about... Leopards well developed and strong chest muscles are essential to their amazing climbing ability and as you can see from this video it does not disable them in any way.



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